Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Marisa UpsonASO Rankings Team
Updated April 23, 2024
Edited by
Reviewed by
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An online special education program prepares you to work with students who experience behavior disorders, learning disabilities, and other challenges. In addition to general education requirements, you’ll take courses in effective learning environments, methods of inclusion, and instructional strategies for those with disabilities. You’ll also learn how to assess and determine a student’s eligibility for special education services.

Explore what an online special education degree offers and the career opportunities it provides.

Why Should You Earn Your Special Education Degree Online?

Obtaining a special education degree can propel you into a field where your creativity and compassion make a significant difference in the lives of students who need extra support. This rewarding career continues to grow in demand.

Pursuing an online special education degree allows you to work at your current job, care for your family, and gain experience in your community without having to commute or relocate. The following list covers some of the top benefits of attending a special education bachelor’s program online.

  • Flexible Scheduling: An online format offers maximum flexibility in scheduling courses and completing assignments, enabling you to pursue your education from home or anywhere with a WiFi connection.
  • Reduced Costs: Depending on the school, you can save money in many ways. Some schools provide electronic textbooks at no cost. Others charge in-state rates to all students, regardless of their location. If you continue working, you also save significantly in lost wages.
  • Local Student Teaching: Earning certification as a special education teacher requires hands-on student teaching experience. Many programs help online students find placements in local schools.
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Top 10 Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

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#1 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

University of West Alabama

  • Location-markerLivingston, AL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,100
  • Out-of-state$18,200
  • Retention Rate63%
  • Acceptance Rate93%
  • Students Enrolled5,734
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment82%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Location-markerHonolulu, HI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,800
  • Out-of-state$26,800
  • Retention Rate81%
  • Acceptance Rate89%
  • Students Enrolled2,208
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment61%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

The University of West Florida

  • Location-markerPensacola, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,735
  • Out-of-state$16,004
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate58%
  • Students Enrolled13,061
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment97%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Mayville State University

  • Location-markerMayville, ND
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,025
  • Out-of-state$9,038
  • Retention Rate63%
  • Acceptance Rate53%
  • Students Enrolled1,168
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment68%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

St. Andrews University

  • Location-markerLaurinburg, NC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$28,680
  • Out-of-state$28,680
  • Retention Rate53%
  • Acceptance Rate61%
  • Students Enrolled887
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment36%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

University of Georgia

  • Location-markerAthens, GA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,790
  • Out-of-state$28,830
  • Retention Rate94%
  • Acceptance Rate48%
  • Students Enrolled39,147
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment16%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Central Methodist University

  • Location-markerFayette, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,950
  • Out-of-state$5,950
  • Retention Rate67%
  • Acceptance Rate100%
  • Students Enrolled3,429
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Western New Mexico University

  • Location-markerSilver City, NM
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,417
  • Out-of-state$11,400
  • Retention Rate64%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled2,896
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment88%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

East Carolina University

  • Location-markerGreenville, NC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,452
  • Out-of-state$20,729
  • Retention Rate83%
  • Acceptance Rate88%
  • Students Enrolled28,798
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment93%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Western Governors University

  • Location-markerSalt Lake City, UT
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,380
  • Out-of-state$6,380
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled147,866
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment0%
  • AccreditationYes

What Do You Learn in an Online Special Education Degree Program?

Programs that prepare you to teach in public schools require student teaching experiences, which typically involve full-time teaching in special education settings. All states require supervised clinical practice. However, states vary on the amount of practical experience required, so check with your state’s board of education before selecting a program.

Some schools also offer non-certification tracks. These pathways do not lead to teacher certification. If you’re interested in a career outside teaching, such as an early intervention specialist or special education advocate, this track may offer a viable option.

Common Courses in Bachelor’s in Special Education Programs

  • academic-cap Curricula for Teaching Students with Severe Disabilities
  • academic-cap Teaching Students with Language and Communication Disorders
  • academic-cap Classroom and Behavior Management for Individuals with Disabilities
  • academic-cap Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
  • academic-cap Field Experience

Does Accreditation Matter for Special Education Bachelor’s Programs?

Institutional accreditation ensures that colleges and universities meet high educational standards. By attending an accredited institution, you gain access to federal financial aid and can more easily transfer credits between schools. Make sure the accrediting organization is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).

Programs and departments within schools can also gain programmatic accreditation. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits most educational programs. Some states require graduation from a CAEP-accredited teacher preparation program to gain licensure.

What Can You Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education?

Many graduates pursue roles as special education teachers in public schools. However, there are other career paths in education. You may teach in private schools or work in hospitals, residential facilities, and even students’ homes. State agencies and nonprofits hire candidates for case management positions and advocacy programs.

You can also advance to senior management positions in residential or vocational programs for individuals with disabilities. A director of special education provides staff support and ensures the program meets the needs of the students. Payscale reports that these directors earn an average salary of $83,671 as of April 2024. This position may require a master’s in special education or educational administration.

If you’ve set your sights on a career as a special education teacher in public schools, you’ll need to obtain your degree from a state-approved teacher preparation program. Additional requirements may include passing a basic math, reading, and writing skills test. You may also need to take the Praxis special education test to get your teacher’s license.

Salary and Job Outlook for Special Education Teachers
Grade LevelMedian Annual Salary (May 2023)Projected Job Growth Rate (2022-2032)
Kindergarten and Elementary School$64,9100%
Secondary School$66,6200%

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Special Education Degrees

question-mark-circleWhat are the admission requirements for a bachelor’s program in special education?

Admission into a bachelor’s program in special education requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. The minimum GPA requirement is usually 2.0. Some schools also require SAT or ACT scores. Many schools offer degree-completion programs, which typically require 60 transfer credits from undergraduate studies with GPAs ranging from 2.0-2.75.

question-mark-circleHow much does an online bachelor’s in special education cost?

NCES data indicates that the average in-state tuition and fees for public universities was $9,596 in the 2021-2022 academic year. For non-residents, that figure rose to $27,457. Remember that some colleges do not charge out-of-state fees for online programs. Private colleges cost the most, averaging $34,041 annually in tuition and fees.

question-mark-circleHow long does an online bachelor’s in special education take?

Most online bachelor’s in special education programs require 120-132 credits. If you attend school full time, you can complete the program in about four years. Some programs offer year-round accelerated options, allowing you to reduce completion time. If you enroll part time, it may take 5-6 years to complete.

question-mark-circleIs an online special education degree worth it?

Yes. If you’re interested in helping students with disabilities through teaching, advocating, or managing resources, an online special education degree is worth it. You also experience high demand and higher-than-average wages. BLS data reveals that, as of May 2023, special education teachers earn a median wage of $65,910.

question-mark-circleWhere do special education teachers make the most money?

Special education teachers in secondary schools make the most money compared to other grade levels. Where you live also affects the money you make. For instance, in New York, the top-paying state, these teachers earn an average wage of $94,460, according to BLS data from May 2023.

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Page last reviewed August 21, 2023. All rankings and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by the ASO Rankings Team.

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